The 2009 accounts to be published next month would show static sales and profits, Etherington said, but generating £100m of cash the wholesaler had been able to pay its bank debt down by £120m. "We're more or less the same as last year, [on the P&L], but we are happy.
"We've been on an investment programme over the past three years. We did wonder whether or not we should continue this in a recession, but we'll be much stronger when we come out the other side. They'll be fewer players, but we'll be one of them."
The fastest-growing category was alcoholic drinks, which now account for 11% of sales, up from 7% previously, following a restructure that saw the closure of its Winerite depot in Leeds. P&H's symbol fascia Mace also performed strongly during the World Cup, with sales up 7.2%, with drinks up 20.9% in the period.